Thursday

7th Jul 2022

EU reforms could turn around Brexit, Blair says

  • "Britain without Europe will lose weight and influence. But Europe without Britain will be smaller and diminished," said the former British PM (Photo: Chatham House)

Former British prime minister Tony Blair made the case in Brussels on Thursday (1 March) that amid geopolitical changes in the world, the UK and the EU need to stick together, and European leaders have a responsibility in keeping Britain in the bloc.

The former Labour leader argued that as the US's appetite to lead and police the world wavers, as new global powers emerge and as European values are challenged around the world, the "rationale for Europe today is not peace, but power".

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

"Britain without Europe will lose weight and influence. But Europe without Britain will be smaller and diminished. And both of us will be less than we are and much less than we could be together," Blair argued, in a speech at an event organised by the European Policy Centre.

"And Europe, to retain the ability to protect its interests and values, will need to form a strong bloc with the power collectively to do what no European nation alone will be able to do individually," he said about a time when the "west would no longer dominate".

The former PM – who rose to power with his New Labour brand promising to reform the left, and in effect pushed it towards the right – told EU leaders they need to help Britain find its way back to the EU.

He said the EU should treat Brexit as a "wake-up call", and that meaningful reform could change British people's minds about leaving the EU.

"The truth is that the anxieties which led to the Brexit vote are felt all over Europe. They're not specific to the British," Blair said, who fell out with the UK electorate after the 2003 invasion of Iraq - although still managed win the 2005 election, his third term as PM.

Getting Britain to change its mind

"Europe knows it needs reform. Reform in Europe is key to getting Britain to change its mind," Blair said.

He said a "comprehensive plan on immigration control, which preserves Europe's values but is consistent with the concerns of its people" could help turn the debate around in Britain.

Blair – who is often blamed domestically for unleashing migration from eastern European member states to Britain, when his government decided to allow free movement immediately after ten new countries joined in 2004 – said that fears about migration are genuine.

"Fears about immigration are not all prejudices, but if you only bring up the prejudice, you are going to lose," he said.

Blair added that policies on energy, digitalisation, education, defence, Europe could do better.

He commended French president Emmanuel Macron's efforts to lead Europe-wide debates on the EU, but warned that they will not work if they only serve to explain citizens "why their worries are misplaced".

He argued that populism needs to be understood before it can be defeated.

Britain's leader from 1997 to 2007 repeated his call that a referendum should be held on May's Brexit deal. His predecessor, former Conservative prime minister John Major argued for the same earlier this week.

EU denies trolling UK with Blair meeting

Blair and Davis could cross paths in the EU Commission building at next Thursday's Brexit talks, but timing was innocent Commission said.

Brexit deal in jeopardy as May refuses EU's Irish option

The EU is growing increasingly frustrated with the UK, as London is struggling to spell out a vision for the future. In the meantime, the Irish border issue could blow up the Brexit negotiations - again.

Barnier: open-ended Brexit transition 'not possible'

The EU will publish the draft legal text of the withdrawal agreement on Wednesday, including conditions on transition. Barnier warned there are still a "lot of points of disagreement" between the EU and the UK - including dates and Ireland.

Britain wants uniquely deep deal with EU

The UK prime minister's third speech on Brexit was the clearest yet on what she wants after Brexit, but still lacked new ideas on resolving some differences, especially on Northern Ireland.

Opinion

Nato's Madrid summit — key takeaways

For the most part Nato and its 30 leaders rose to the occasion — but it wasn't without room for improvement. The lesson remains that Nato still doesn't know how or want to hold allies accountable for disruptive behaviour.

Column

One rubicon after another

We realise that we are living in one of those key moments in history, with events unfolding exactly the way Swiss art historian Jacob Burckhardt describes them: a sudden crisis, rushing everything into overdrive.

News in Brief

  1. Report: British PM Johnson to resign today
  2. British PM defiant amid spate of resignations
  3. France says EU fiscal discipline rules 'obsolete'
  4. Russia claims untouchable status due to nuclear arsenal
  5. Catalan MEPs lose EU court case over recognition
  6. 39 arrested in migrant-smuggling dragnet
  7. France to nationalise nuclear operator amid energy crisis
  8. Instant legal challenge after ok for 'green' gas and nuclear

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic and Canadian ministers join forces to combat harmful content online
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers write to EU about new food labelling
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersEmerging journalists from the Nordics and Canada report the facts of the climate crisis
  4. Council of the EUEU: new rules on corporate sustainability reporting
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers for culture: Protect Ukraine’s cultural heritage!
  6. Reuters InstituteDigital News Report 2022

Latest News

  1. Is Orban holding out an olive branch to EPP?
  2. EU should freeze all EU funds to Hungary, says study
  3. Legal action looms after MEPs back 'green' nuclear and gas
  4. EU readies for 'complete Russian gas cut-off', von der Leyen says
  5. Rising prices expose lack of coherent EU response
  6. Keeping gas as 'green' in taxonomy vote only helps Russia
  7. 'War on Women' needs forceful response, not glib statements
  8. Greece defends disputed media and migration track record

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us